I can’t fight my own daughter politically, says Abubakar Kankur Mohammed, father of the Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe.
Mohammed, 80, a native authority educationist, as well as former Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) during late General Sani Abacha’s transition to civil rule, in this interview with NOAH EBIJE, in Kaduna, disclosed that he was a card carrying member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the major opposition political party in the country, up to the time his daughter was picked as the running mate to Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State in the race for second term in office.
He said he had no choice than to dump PDP in order to support his daughter in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). “I was a card carrying member of PDP right from 1999 till the time of former governor of the State, Mukthar Ramalan Yero. I will be fighting my own daughter politically if I remain in PDP. But I can’t fight my own daughter. So I decided to join APC”, he said.
Can you paint a picture of yourself growing up?
My name is Abubakar Kankur Mohammed. I was born in 1940 in Gwantu, headquarters of present day Sanga local government area of Kaduna State. I attended what is today known as Waziri Aliyu Jamaa primary school, Kafanchan. I was there for about three years. I took entrance examination into middle school, and fortunately I passed the examination. I was admitted to Kuru middle primary school in Jos. I was in Kuru for three years. And after my seven years in primary school, I passed entrance examination into Toro teachers college in Bauchi province, where I later passed my grade three teachers certificate. I started teaching at the then Jamaa federation local authority. I started teaching in 1960. After grade three certificate in those days, one has to teach for two years before going for grade two examinations. I went to Katsina teachers college in 1962, and I was there for two years where I sat for teachers grade two certificate. I passed out in 1963. I went back to Jamaa federation native authority. I was appointed headmaster of Jamaa Central primary school, which is today known as Waziri Aliyu primary school. It was by then promoted to senior primary school status. The school ran from primary one to primary seven. I was appointed the headmaster of the school. I served the school as headmaster for about two years. All of a sudden I was called to the office of the native authority to serve as the acting Head of education department of the local authority and barely one year, I went to the institute of administration in ABU, Zaria where I trained as administrator. After the training, I went back to Jamaa local authority. In those days the regional northern government had decided to reorganise all the educational departments in local native authority. This was in 1968. Subsequently, I became the chief education officer of the local education authority. So the whole responsibility of organising, administering and coordinating the primary education system came under me as a sole administrator. Organising education system in those days entailed bringing together all primary schools in the local authority belonging to various agencies like the missionary and so on and so forth for effective administration. We took over all the primary schools that existed in Jama’a. I became the first education officer in the local authority office in 1968. I was not satisfied with the level of education I had, so by October 1976, I secured admission into the United Kingdom University, University of Wales. It was a two years course for experienced teachers. And after the two years, I graduated with a Bachelor of education. When I came back to Nigeria I was interviewed and appointed as as senior assistant registrar of teachers advance college in Zaria. And after serving there for one year, the post of local government secretary in Jama’a federation native authority was advertised in 1980. I applied and I was successful. I became the executive secretary of the local authority as it were. When additional local government was created by the House of Assembly, the new local authority started functioning. All serving officers who wished to take up appointment with the new local government were advised to resign. That was the directive of the State executive. I was prevailed to be the first administrator of Sanga local government with the headquarters in Gwantu, having retired as the executive secretary of the local authority.
In all of this, which year did you eventually settle down for marriage?
When I came back from Katsina in December 1963, and after about four months in 1964 I got married.
You got married to how many wives?
For now I have two wives. The first wife whom I married in 1964 is late after four children. She was the mother of the present Deputy Governor of Kaduna state, Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe. All in all, we are blessed with eleven children, but the eldest, Mohammed is late. The Deputy Governor is the second child from my first and late wife. My second wife has four children and the third wife has three children. So 4 plus 4 plus 3 is equal to 11. But 10 children are now alive.
How did you feel when you got the news of your daughter being elected as the deputy governor of Kaduna State?
I felt very excited. I was a bit surprised because she had hardly shown interest in political activities. So I was surprised how her name was picked as deputy governor. However, be that as it was, she is now the deputy governor and we are always excited about it. We are happy, we are proud and feel honoured that she has achieved what nobody from our area had ever achieved. We are quite satisfied. Before she became deputy governor, she was working somewhere else. She was also a director in the ministry of health in FCT, Abuja. She did very well.
At the time you trained your daughter, girl child education was a problem, particularly in the north. How did you achieve this?
Having been a teacher myself, I wouldn’t play around education for my children. So, my first priority was to send my children to school. I wanted them to qualify more than myself and to rise to the peak of their career. She started her primary school education at Waziri Aliyu primary school in Kafanchan. And after a year or two, she followed her mother to teachers college in Kagoro because the mother was a grade two teacher. The mother stayed in Kagoro for teaching training college. My daughter passed her entrance examination and gained admission to Soba. She did her secondary school in Soba. From there, she got admission to the University of Maiduguri.
Among your children, she appears more brilliant. How true?
Well, you may be right, but her senior brother was a genius. Mohammed was a genius. I said so because he went to Barewa College, Zaria. But he was sent away because of gross indiscipline. He is late now, so it is not good to talk bad of the dead.
There is this political permutation that Governor El-Rufa’i may handover to his deputy in 2023. What is your reaction to this?
I don’t want to cross the river before getting there. We better wait for the right time. I will comment at the appropriate time if I am alive that time. For now, we should help the government to progress and achieve its set goals for the State.
There is this notion from some quarters that it will be very difficult for a woman to govern Kaduna State because of the belief that a woman should not lead men. Do you agree?
There is a prominent Imam who was saying, quoting the Koran that women are not allowed to lead. The Imam said this several times and it was carried in National television and radio. But God has made it and she is now the deputy governor. After all, she is not the first female deputy governor of Kaduna State. We have had Pamela Sadauki, through military government appointments. So we have had female deputy governor. The difference is that my daughter was democratically elected, Sadauki was appointed by the military. But as the Muslims believe, everyone has his own destiny. Whatever God destined for you, it will be what you become. It was the Will of God she became deputy governor. As human beings, we believe in the action of God. If God decides to do something, you cannot stop Him.
If she becomes governor, is it equally God’s decision?
Of course. We Muslims believe that God gives power to whom He wishes and takes it from whoever He wishes. How many people fought for the position of governor, but at the end of the day, only one person succeeded. That is the act of God.
From all indications, your daughter’s position as deputy governor must have awoken your political interest to give her support because you have not been active in politics. Is this true?
What we are primarily concerned now is for her to succeed in office. The rest of it will follow at the appropriate time.
What was the level of your political interest before she became deputy governor. Did you actually like active politics?
I played politics. I played politics, mostly especially during the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). I introduced NPN in Jama’a, and it was accepted.
So when we went back to democratic government in 1999, which party were you?
I happened to be a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). I was in the elders committee of the PDP. Up to the time of former Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, I was still a card-carrying member of the PDP, but not active member. I was a member of the elders committee in Sanga local government area.
You must have left PDP because of your daughter who is now the deputy governor under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Do you agree?
Of course. I cannot fight my daughter.
Can you explain what you mean by saying that you cannot fight your daughter?
If you are in a different party from your daughter’s party, are you not fighting her? I can’t fight her. She is in another party as the deputy governor, and you say you belong to another party, are you not fighting her. Speaking mildly, it is also a solidarity with her position. But if you are a true politician, you cannot afford to belong or vote for another party. Can you? And if you don’t vote for her party, you are fighting her. This is the issue. Because it is a game of votes, if she wins, she has won the fight, if she loses, she has lost the fight. I was a card-carrying member of PDP right from 1999 till the time of former governor of the State, Mukthar Ramalan Yero. I will be fighting my own daughter politically if I remain in PDP. But I can’t fight my own daughter. So I decided to join APC.
What does her victory mean to the people of Sanga local government area where she hails from?
Well, her victory partly is good for the womanhood. Secondly, for the Sanga people because it was a surprise to them having been given the first democratically elected female deputy governor.
When your daughter was picked as running mate to Governor El-Rufa’i, many people kicked against Muslim /Muslim ticket. What was your reaction?
Apart from being a Muslim, people probably reacted because of her gender. You don’t expect 100 percent support for her. As it were, sometimes people tend to forget that one is born with his or her own destiny. Secondly, God appoints anyone, anytime, anywhere and whenever He wants. So, if El-Rufa’i announced her appointment, he was only acting Allah’s decision. He Couldn’t have thought of her if God does not want her to be. So, sometimes people tend to be wiser than Allah, saying what He has done is wrong or is right.
What is the saddest moment in your life?
Well, if I should go back to my school days, in Kuru middle school, I was very brilliant, but what saddened me most was when I was shortlisted for entrance examination into secondary school, and by the time we came back from summer holiday, my name was missing. I stayed for another one year, my name was shortlisted, but we went on summer holiday, and by the time we came back, my name was missing again. I went to the principal who was a white man, a British, and I was crying before him, and he asked me what was the problem. I told him that twice my name was missing after being shortlisted, what offence did I commit. The man said it was not his fault that the provisional officer said you are too young to go to secondary school at that time. But I saw others who were much younger than me that were given admission. I feel like shedding tears anytime I remember it till today because I was a grammar school material, and not a teacher school material. There were other saddest moments but this one supercedes others.
And your happiest moment?
Well, my happiest moment was when my daughter became the deputy governor. But partly before then, you know I had other appointments like the appointment General Sani Abacha administration gave me, as the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Oyo State. It was one of my happiest moments. The appointment just came suddenly, I never expected it. I served just for one year. Then Abacha died. When Abdulsalami took over, he dissolved the Commission, which I was serving. It was then known as National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON). He changed the name to National Electoral Commission (NEC) . We conducted two or three elections; House of Assembly and the Senate. We were waiting for governorship election and the presidential when Abacha died.